Monday, November 13, 2017

The Chicagoist Post


What? You thought I wouldn't blog about Chicagoist meeting a sudden demise at the hands of billionaires with a toddler's "take-your-toys-and-go-home" mentality?

No chance.

Chicagoist was and is a big deal to me. I was there. I was a part of it and what IT was was truly one of Chicago's best. And a community, and a place where I learned a lot from a lot of people. Honestly, it seemed unbelievable most of the time that I was a part of it. I read Chicagoist every day at work- started off with the Around Town gallery they'd post around my lunchtime every day. I still remember when one of the pictures I submitted got in. I was so excited! Then came a resolve to do more things I'd always meant to do, which led to GISHWHES, which I didn't expect to change my life but did. As I've mentioned before, once you're emailing the CEO of Groupon to ask him to send a video of himself doing the Single Ladies dance in his suit for our scavenger hunt, it's not as intimidating to throw your hat in the ring to be an A&E writer.



Jim and Chuck gave me a chance. My first two stories (the testers, if you will) were The Happy Show and Jazzin' at the Shedd. These events happened while I had a really good friend of mine (and a hell of an encouraging presence) in from New Mexico for a visit, so I got to take him with me on these adventures. One of the things I love about this job is that it allows me to bring people along for the ride. I've seen so many amazing things while writing for Chicagoist, and I've gotten to share them with the people I love.


 

These are things I love to do and wanted to do and got to take some of my best friends to, to boot. It was ways I could take my boyfriend, who is awesome and deserving of such things, to shows on dates that I never could've pulled off either. I mean, we met Weird Al! I was so starstruck that night at the back of the Chicago Theatre I couldn't make sentences happen.


I still remember my very first story. An easy to get to one for a cub Chicagoista - it was at Union Station - a "happening" called Station to Station. I wasn't sure how to dress for a "happening" let alone to blend in with all the press, and I was a huge nerd about being on the press list. I constantly checked my bag for pens and camera batteries and wondered what obvious things I would inevitably be missing or what faux pas I would stumble into as soon as I got there.


I'm sure being a nerd about being on the press list counts as one of those faux pas, but I couldn't have cared less. I saw Thurston Moore unplug when the stage lost power. I explored smoky yurts and ate artisanal sandwiches and watched people make things. And in one of my favorite moments of all time for Chicagoist, I heard Mavis Staples' voice ring out through the entire Great Hall at Union Station. The show was like being at her house on a Sunday in its intimacy, but that voice let loose in that hall with those acoustics were life-changing.



In fact, all of Chicagoist was. I still get imposter syndrome, both for being a writer at Chicagoist and a "writer" at all. I take on projects and do work and wonder when someone will find out I'm not supposed to be where I am. I'm lucky. I'm lucky to have worked the stories I worked. I'm lucky to have been able to call Chicagoist's staff my friends. I'm lucky to have gotten to explore all the things I've explored.


I've been on the roof of the Art Institute, the basement of the Field Museum, the floor for the nerdiest of conventions in Chicago each year. I've heard amazing music, met amazing people and learned from fantastic journalists.


I've gotten to go see what Chicago has to offer, photograph it, write about it and then share it with tons of people, in hopes that they'll find some good stuff, too. Hopefully somewhere in there I've written things that will help people some way - whether that's simply getting to know some of the neat places and faces Chicago has to offer or just having some nerd to relate to.



Above all though, Chicagoist helped me.
I found what I love.
I do the things I love.
It's still work and it always will be.
I have LOTS more work to do.
I've made mistakes, but I've learned from them, too.

It's been an incredible ride, and I'm sad to see it go. Chicagoist was an opportunity, sure, but it also truly was a community, one I loved with all my heart.


I'm grateful to everyone I've ever raised a glass with, shared a GIF or emailed with, and especially grateful to Jim and Chuck who gave me my shot, and Lisa and Rachel who helped me and Chicagoist grow after that, even into things like hard news. You.all.rock.



The world would be stupid not to snatch every last one of you up for something amazing, and I can't wait to see what that is.

Shine on, you crazy diamonds.









Tuesday, October 17, 2017

We Grew This


Turns out, Chicago is a busy month for journalists and journalistas. Hence my lateness to this post, which I've actually been looking forward to for a few days now. But you know, as a friend says, #amwriting #amediting. Tis the thing we strive for.

So, you say, what's the thing you were waiting to blog about?

It's my fourth anniversary with my love. <3 nbsp="" p="">Four years, man. It's a long time. The foundation was laid long long before that, in a friendship we kept up for yearrrrs, but now it's a bigger, better thing.

I was looking for an image to represent what I wanted to say about this, and I landed on this rose. It's from our own garden, from this year. We had these roses in the yard, they were planted long before I was here, and they just weren't blooming. Couldn't figure out what the problem was, tried pruning them the one year and nothing, took them to the Master Gardeners at the county ag department...in any case, two years in, they finally bloomed. Gorgeously, and they were incredibly prolific. I could not believe how beautiful. And we grew that. Trial and error and doubt and all.

And that's...how it works in a relationship. Sometimes you cut too deep, sometimes you don't address things you need to. Sometimes you do a lot of work and it doesn't seem to get you anywhere. But you keep working at it and you grow something. And that thing can be incredible.

The beautiful parts of us are some of my favorite things on Earth. It sounds like nothing, but one of my dreams was to have someone who'd eat ice cream in bed with me while we watched some silly show. And we do that.

I hoped for someone who would cook with me. We cook together ALL the time. We make a hobby out of it every single week with 52 Weeks of Cooking and that was the lens I used to talk about us last year at a live event.

We nerd out together. We mangle and strangle the English language so badly together that sometimes I think it's only the two of us who could understand a word we're saying sometimes. Just for fun. We write together, game together, watch the Cubs together, and have a HUGE list of nerdy shows we are huge fans of.

He brought me into the world of Star Trek, and especially when times are so dark...Star Trek gives me hope. It makes me feel like there's this beautiful way we can all exist together if we keep trying for it. The characters and worlds there are gold, and I love that we share it, and I love how it's still sorta "ultra" nerdy in that way where people are like "oh you're a TREKKIE?" because I love how proud we stand together when we say "yeah! Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra!" and wait for the sneers. I love how we can be ourselves together because it's us against the world and being weird together is powerful.We don't have anything to prove.

I love our trips together. I love the relaxation and intimacy of our time in Door County- we got snowed in this last time and it was some of my favorite travel ever, even though we didn't leave our hotel at all that day. We cook while we're there too, and play board games and watch movies and eat cheese and drink wine. We locked ourselves in the Mall of America for his birthday this year.

I love watching him. He's like this over-easy egg of sunshine. It spills right out of him when you take the time to get to know him and talk to him and you see the big beautiful heart, the hearty laugh, the nerdy core and the generosity and kindness just flow out like a river. I love watching people's faces change when he cracks a smile. I love going on walks with him or to the grocery store and holding his hand or knowing that we can make even that fun.

It's not all easy. We spend so much time together by virtue of working at home together that, honestly, we drive each other nuts sometimes. There's internal pressures and household stresses and the regular "uncovering all each other's bullshit" that gets to us. There's the ways that a person you love shows you the worst parts of yourself. But there's ways we show each other the best in ourselves too.

All I need to know sometimes is that I never fall asleep faster than when he's there. When he's not, I can't turn my head off. I know that when I'm not with him, I'm already planning what I'll call or text him, and what he might have liked. I've probably taken pictures of something I wanted to see, and probably saved something I wanted to buy for him in a folder on the internet somewhere (don't peek if you read this.) I'm probably planning all the adventures I want us to have in the future somewhere in the back of my head.

Life gets to me. This  house gets to me. Sometimes, we get to each other. But I've learned so much trying to grow this. Life has a way of showing me how much I haven't learned too, but the bottom line is, we grew this. Four years in, I hope it just keeps growing and going strong.

And hey, you, who's busily reviewing games behind me...I love you. <3 p="">

Saturday, October 7, 2017

You Can Always Order Pizza


So, I love cooking.
You probably know this, as you've probably read here there or everywhere about the various cooking exploits I've been on on my own and with my wonderful SO.

I spend a fair amount of time mining the internet for new recipes and stuff, and so I read food blogs and food sections of papers and magazines.

Today, I read this.
In which an intrepid reporter from Chicago magazine has Grant Achatz, yes, THE, yes he of the 3 Michelin stars (that's hard to do in Europe let alone the U.S.) help her with a dinner party.

It's a great article, and a lot of that is in a bit of schadenfreude, I spose, and relating with someone who is nervous around people sometimes. During the course of her time with the chef, she frets about how he'll perceive her and the things she already has in her house, if he'll be stern and a taskmaster, and proceeds to drop a pepper grinder in a bowl of cream as well as grate herself (which I do more than I'd care to admit) and cut herself.

Achatz has accomplished a lot. And first off, he could've felt "above" this sort of story and not done it, and second, he could have done it and not been whole-hog with it. But the whole time he's a calming presence, even forming a sort of eye-rolling-but-in-good-fun role for himself that endears me to him, even having never met him.

He still does what he does and teaches, helping her every step of the way, but he makes himself unimportant and unintimidating. I *love* people like this, and there are far too few of them. People that can shake off the bonds of their fame and just be people are the best kind of people to have fame, if you ask me.

Anyway, the deal was he shops with her, emails her, and then the day of, helps her to a point til he has to go back to Alinea, to, y'know, run a 3 Michelin star restaurant in one of the largest cities in the US. Cuz...well, important.

In any case, one of the things that stuck with me on this was how the author finishes the story.
Because of course, you're wondering if somehow, in that last stretch without him there, she's gonna somehow ruin everything (the way that you feel like you would, if you're like me)

Everyone loves everything despite even  her perceived errors, like overbaking the dessert a bit.

But in the end she remembers Achatz consoling her in a moment of panic by saying that if everything is awful, "You can always order pizza!"

I love it.

On so many levels. I think of Michelin star chefs sometimes as these battle axe sort of people, who are unrelenting, exacting, precise and unforgiving of mistakes, from themselves and the people under them. And that's there, or else they wouldn't be getting the accolades they do. Consistency and precision are key to that sort of craft so that what you put out one day is still what people taste five months from now should they order it.

But as serious as he is about food, and about cooking...if it doesn't work? Fine. Order pizza.

It reminds me to chill the hell out when I'm stressing about whatever it is I'm stressing about.

Because really. You can always order pizza.

It's not to say not to be precise or not to try your hardest to do things as best as you can.
It is to say that if something goes wrong, maybe try not to beat yourself up about it and move on.
Learn from it, sure, but then just...keep on' keepin' on.
And order pizza.

So that's my thought of the day, followed by my sleep of the night.
Now I want pizza.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Filthy Stovetop


The other day, I was angrily cleaning the dishes and stewing in my own angry-juices. I'd lost my head, so to speak.

I was mad for a variety of reasons, one of the simplest being that nobody.scrubs.the.damn.stovetop.and.black.shows.everything.PEOPLE!

Seriously though. People buy black cars and black bikes and whatever and think "it'll hide the dirt!"
Except dirt isn't black, at least not much of it. Potting soil is, but usually your home isn't coated in that. Unless you're a tulip or a very serious and disorganized gardening addict.

I cook a lot, so I couldn't even exclude myself from my own anger. Things build up, and after a week or so, the stovetop goes from racy black shiny to cruddy icky please don't take a picture of that. (Note that I have not.)

Thing is, too, that maybe, had anyone (including myself) scrubbed the damned surface after they cooked just once, swipe swipe swipe and done, it wouldn't get that way at all. Take 2 minutes extra now, save the carnage of scraping soaking and picking food particles out from under your burners, which by the way? Pretty gross.

At the time though, I was mad about no one helping. Sometimes, it feels like I'm solely responsible for the daily swiping, as it were. Like if I do 23 loads of dishes by hand and put them all away, then buy myself a pint of ice cream and leave the ice cream spoon in the sink, if someone else makes themselves eggs the next morning one of two things will happen:

1) a big pile of egg dishes plus the spoon
2) egg dishes all done, but the spoon is still dirty in the sink.

It's frustrating.

I kept thinking: If you pass through the kitchen and you see a stack of dishes and you think "man, that's a lot of dirty dishes" or "man, the floor is dirty as hell" but you just keep walking and going about your own life, well...there's the problem.

Everyone's busy busy all the time, work and life and whatnot. But one thing I'm finding out more and more in the realm of taking care of a house and family is that really, if things don't pile up on one person, and you take about five minutes out of your own time to help every day, then no one feels like they're an ox yoked to a cart full of lead. (weirdly biblical reference? No idea why.)

Vacuuming the whole upstairs takes about ...15 minutes? Emptying the litter boxes and redoing them? 10. Taking the trash out to the cans just right outside the front door, including time to replace the bag? About 2 minutes. Seriously.

Once I finished the dishes and the stovetop, I'd calmed down but I thought about the stovetop more metaphorically.

We can't just help ourselves. We can't just expect people to do things for us. We can't expect anyone to be the first to break the ice, we can't wait for others to do the right thing. We need to do it. Don't wait to be asked to hang out more. If there's a friend in your life that you don't see enough, regardless of who contacted who last and how that interaction went, if it's important enough to cross your mind, then just do the contacting.

If you see a problem, don't act like you're Janeway observing a pre-warp civilization from afar, get involved!


(Side note: I love Janeway, just in this example don't be Janeway.)

I thought about some family members I know (Mine and other people's) and how they're hurting because of each other. Each waits for the other to make it right. Both say they want it to be right. But no one's DOING anything.

Just because you say you want to see someone more doesn't make you get out there and see them. You say you're gonna have more time, we're totally gonna do that, you'll see!
But you don't. And maybe there's good reasons, maybe there's real stuff. I missed my friend coming in from Seattle recently because I got really sick and then had to cover Wizard World for 4 days straight.

But don't rest on self-righteousness. I was sick, I was working...but I still forgot to call him and say something. So, I'm making an effort now to apologize and do better. Incidentally, I'm going to Seattle soon and will hopefully be seeing him there.

Family that supports each other does something that families that don't don't do: They don't wait.
They don't keep scoreboards of when the other wasn't there to help them.
They just act.
Someone's hurt or isolated...let's go!

We're not entitled to each other's time or friendship. We're not magically going to have a good family or friend life if we don't actively try to make it that way.

I know this because I don't do the things I'm saying we need to do all the time and it hurts me and it hurts the people I love.

But sometimes, a filthy stovetop reminds me that we could work together, and with just a little effort on each end, make things easier and better for everyone.

I don't know who all is reading this, but I encourage you to take action.
This is important. We can't count on everyone to do anything for us. We can't expect that some time in the future, our relatives are going to stop being the way they are and reach out, our friends are going to get less busy or have a less weird schedule.

Why can't we set up a once a week call with our sisters (Shan, I say this because I'm about to institute it)
Why can't we at least answer a text within a day of getting it if the person's at all someone we want in our life?
Why can't we pick an "inconvenient" time for coffee and just go see our friend we haven't seen in a few years?

It has value. It adds value. It's worth the cost.

And in the meantime? Take out the trash. Sweep the floor. Do the dishes. Help where you live.
It means more than you know.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Night at the Nerdlesque


This weekend was the 5th Annual Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival. I've been to all but one of these nerdy affairs, covering them for Chicagoist and now Third Coast Review. I can usually make it to at least a night or two, and this year attended Thursday and Saturday nights. One thing I've missed in years past (mostly due to expiring parking or just a long drive home ahead of me) were the nerd burlesque shows that the festival always features. 

Up til this year, the only true live burlesque I'd seen was a special show at the bar I frequented back in Socorro, NM. It was a great time, but I think I got even more out of this. 

For one thing, back then, I was a bit younger and a bit less likely to express all of who I am. For another, this is nerdlesque. Nerds are my people and I am theirs. And really...it's sexy dancing Voldemort. How bizarre/amusing/unusual is that?

But it's more than what's at face value, and so was the "straight up" burlesque show I saw earlier. 
The crazy thing to me in both cases was how good it made ME feel about ME. Burlesque is such a positive experience, or at least has been for me. Nerdlesque was doubly so, because it allows you to laugh at yourself while also navigating a part of yourself that can be harder to let out or address. 

I love the talent and openness involved, and I love that it's the art of the tease. 
You won't get to see everything, and that's ok. It's about leaving the desire for more. Talented burlesque performers can hold an audience's attention simply by way of confidence. They can make being Voldemort alluring, somehow. They're not necessarily Victoria's Secret Angels or Greek Gods of men, but they don't have to be, because what they show you, what burlesque shows you, is that sexy is from within. 

Sexy is about individualism, and about feeling it yourself and then projecting it out there. It's about you as a person and how you interact with other people. And the best kind of sexy is the kind that makes other people feel like they could be sexy too. 
That's what I learned at the nerdlesque show. 



So I'm passing it on to you. 
Confident is sexy. Unique is sexy. YOU are sexy, you nerdy little thing you! Celebrate who and what you are. We all should do that more. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Stand Up


I've always had a hard time with confrontation. I think most people, at the core, do.
There were a lot of times in my life I looked back on and thought "Man, I was a total doormat there."
I've erred in the opposite direction too, where I "stood up" for myself by making EVERYTHING an issue, which is something I still struggle with from time to time.

It's hard to know when to speak up sometimes.
It's hard to speak up even when you know you should sometimes.

I feel like there are a lot of people right now that probably feel that way in regards to the national problems we're facing, but some of the things that prompted me to blog this today are much closer to home, in my working environment.

I don't like causing division. I don't like to feel "against" anyone and I don't like stirring the pot. But the truth of the matter is that if you leave the pot to sit on its own, then things blacken and everything becomes bitter from the bottom up. You need to stir and not settle before that happens.

There's room to be understanding, to see if you're coming from a place of pride or competition or whatever, but if you can examine it long enough and realize it's not that, then you need to take action. This post is mostly about me having to deal with a work situation I didn't want to deal with and being afraid of the fallout from it, both in my personal life, with people I consider friends, and in my working life, with people that are colleagues and peers.

I have a hard time with the concept of "righteous anger" if you want to use a semi-religious term, too. I feel like being angry is wrong, and to be honest, I feel that way when I'm not the angry one too, and fail to realize there's a good reason to be angry, and there are healthy ways to be angry. There's damn toxic ones too, but there ARE reasons to express anger and ways to do it that aren't harmful.

And I'm angry. I'm angry when I am faced with conflict where there should be cooperation. I'm angry when people eschew communication, blatantly ignore others attempts at it, and fail to do anything but assert their authority. It creates a bad environment for everyone, and it makes working together harder. This is especially frustrating when it creates extra divisions, delays projects, and intimidates others, and that's what it's doing.

As far as next steps...I'm not too sure.
But one thing I want to make clear?
I'm standing up for myself now. I will not be condescended to by my peers, and I will not be scolded like a child by people who abuse their position.
I'm going to stand up.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Somewhat Unadvertised Confession


So. Yesterday. Yesterday, I took a bath. A good long soak, longer than necessary. And I looked in the mirror for a good long time. One of the traits about myself that's not so great, I'm told, is my unwillingness to look in a mirror for long.

I'm all for body acceptance, loving who you are, feeling good in your own skin and whatever other good things you can do, but I have a hard time putting it into practice. A cursory glance tells me at least I don't have spinach in my teeth and my hair isn't THE MOST crazy or whatnot, and then I'm good. If I'm doing winged eyeliner or something, I'll look more, because come on, have you ever tried evening out both sides? But other than that, I'm not great about just...looking. It makes me uncomfortable talking about it, even. Like, ugh, am I talking about looking at myself...like my whole self? That seems wrong or inappropriate to talk about. But it's me, and it's me looking at MY self. It's mine. Shouldn't I know what it's like now?

To my surprise, I didn't hate all the things. There were things I'd like to take action on, for sure, but I didn't  hate all the things. And I stood there longer. And I looked, and I thought, and I wished, for once, that I could learn to like even the things I currently hate. And to maybe, maybe rock myself out the way I really would like to. There are people much bigger and much smaller than me that have a much bigger slice of the confidence pie, and I'd like to go back and get some more. I'd like to really really feel good about me. I need to work on that.

I looked in a more metaphorical mirror lately, and unfortunately, I'm kinda seeing that picture I used as the lead. I have, it seems, fallen into a depression. There's some underlying stuff there, like work stuff, people I've lost touch with, relationship struggles...and there's some stuff that came from it that made it worse, like avoiding stuff as simple as showers and sunshine, and neglecting stuff I should be doing, which piles on the guilt, which makes it more insurmountable. I've talked to the SO about it, and I mentioned it in a more public way tonight. It's not dire, and I know depression lies, but it makes you think a lot, too.

The bad things I feel are hopelessness in some areas of my life- like I can't change the things I want to change, like trying makes it worse, like failing is a reminder of how already bad at things I was.

There's fear- that I can't change myself, that I can't change the bad interactions, and fear that comes from hurting. Fear that I'm alienating myself from people, fear that people are starting to or already did not like me, fear that I can't repair relationships with people I'd like to, or build something better with people.

There's a lack of energy and excitement for the future. I try to set goals of things to look forward to, even if they're small, because it helps me feel...better, more secure and happy. Like, for example, I am looking forward to finally getting around to seeing Rogue One. Lately though, those things get put off, a lot of the times by me, and I feel like I'm floating aimlessly. And I want to do things, but I don't.

So I'm confessing. I'm struggling. I'm not super happy. I feel a little like I lost my way and on top of that don't really feel like digging in and finding it.

I don't feel like posting this after writing it because if I do I'm admitting all this, and that seems...not great? But I'm gonna post it.

Because maybe someone else out there feels that way. In fact, I know someone else out there feels that way. And maybe we can be hope for each other, maybe even just a little.

I feel like a lump of useless, but I have to believe that that's not all I am.
And neither are you.